Indians' extension talks with Masterson put on hold
Right-hander can become free agent following 2014 season if not re-signed
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Extension talks between All-Star starter Justin Masterson and the Indians have ceased for the time being.
Masterson's camp presented Cleveland with financial parameters for a possible three- or four-year deal roughly two weeks ago, and the club got back to the pitcher's agent, Randy Rowley, on Thursday. The Indians indicated that they are unable to align with Masterson's proposals at this time.
"We tried to be flexible in years and sensitive to the market," Rowley said on Thursday night. "Justin obviously has a passion for playing for [manager Terry Francona], loves his teammates and we would've loved to have gotten something done. We tried to do everything we could to make that happen, and we weren't able to come to an agreement."
Indians general manager Chris Antonetti declined comment.
Both the Indians and Rowley closely monitored Homer Bailey's talks with Cincinnati leading up to that deal because the right-hander is comparable to Masterson in terms of service time and statistics. The Indians signed Masterson to a one-year deal worth $9,762,500 to avoid arbitration for 2014 while the two sides continued to discuss a long-term deal.
It is believed that Masterson --eligible for free agency next offseason -- was seeking an average annual salary of around $17 million over a multiyear deal. That asking price would fall between the expected value of next winter's free-agent qualifying offer and the annual value of Bailey's six-year, $105 million extension with the Reds.
Barring something unexpected, Cleveland will likely extend a qualifying offer to Masterson after this season in order to secure Draft-pick compensation in the event that he signs elsewhere. The Indians took the same approach this past winter with Ubaldo Jimenez, who signed a four-year contact worth $50 million with the Orioles.
It is unlikely that the the Indians and Masterson will rekindle contract talks during the regular season. Both parties made it clear throughout the negotiating process that Opening Day would serve as an unofficial deadline for extension talks.
According to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, Cleveland came back to Masterson with a two-year proposal that included a team option for a third year. Cleveland, which has operated with a payroll of around $80 million in the past few seasons, has roughly $48 million committed already for 2015 and $44 million for '16.
Masterson, who will turn 29 years old on Saturday, went 14-10 with a 3.45 ERA in 193 innings for the Indians last season. The sinkerballer made his first American League All-Star team and ended the season with a team-high 195 strikeouts. He has gone 44-55 with a 4.08 ERA in parts of five seasons with Cleveland.
Over the past three years, Masterson has gone 37-35 with a 3.86 ERA in 100 games, averaging 171 strikeouts, 76 walks and 205 innings per season. Masterson has served as Cleveland's Opening Day starter in each of the past two years and he will do so again this season. The right-hander is slated to take the ball in the regular-season opener on March 31, when the Indians begin their quest for the postseason with a series against the A's.
In 13 Cactus League innings this spring, Masterson has allowed no runs with 14 strikeouts against only two walks. He is scheduled to log six innings on Friday, when the Indians face the Rockies at 4:10 p.m. ET at Salt River Fields in Scottsdale.